Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is often referred to as the method that could mitigate climate change. The environmental policy regulations currently in preparation contain provisions regarding risk assessment for future CCS plants, but there is no research data available on the more extensive risks the plants may cause to society. The objective of the RICCS project is to enhance the reliability, adaptiveness and acceptability of CCS technologies by engaging the general public, CCS technology developers and decision-makers in an early stage appraisal of risks related to further development of CCS.
Examples of the anticipated risks associated with CCS include sudden release of captured carbon dioxide from its long-term storage sites, ocean acidification caused by carbon dioxide, gradual leakage of carbon dioxide from the long-term storage sites, and the adverse impacts of carbon dioxide transport. A less commonly discussed risk is the fact that widespread introduction of CCS technologies could result in continued use of polluting fossil energy based technologies.
The CCS methods are an excellent example of the so-called next-generation risks: they are systemic and have complex socio-cultural consequences. Potential problems are difficult to identify and predict as the more extensive impact mechanisms of the CCS technologies are yet unknown. These next-generation risks represent a challenge as it is impossible to assess their environmental effects based purely on scientific evidence. However, there is a sufficient amount of research data to provide strong grounds for some environmental policy actions based on the precautionary principle, in order to protect the public interest.
Three research questions are addressed in this project: (1) What are the risks related to CCS technologies as perceived by the relevant stakeholder groups? (2) Which stages in the development of CCS technologies and their regulation are likely to benefit from knowledge obtained in participatory pre-assessment of risks? (3) What are the elements of an early warning monitoring system of CCS technologies that prepares for future contingencies and is based on stakeholder knowledge?
Research is based on five case studies of CCS technology development projects carried out in Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway. Research methods include interviews with technology developers, policy-makers, environmental experts and people living adjacent to proposed CCS sites; observation of technology and legislative development, and decision-maker panels that allow decision-makers and stakeholders to deliberate upon opportunities to observe CCS-related future contingencies.